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Fire districts see increase in taxable value

June 5, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

For the eighth straight year, properties within the North Fort Myers and Bayshore fire districts saw taxable valuations increase.

North Fort Myers saw an increase of an estimated 2.69 percent, to $2.862 billion, up from $2.787 billion last year.

Last year, North Fort Myers property values increased 5.72 percent, and 4.70 percent in 2016.

Taxing agencies that garner revenue from property tax valuations base their budgets on taxable valuation. An increase in valuations gives agencies some options: they can leave their tax rate the same and still get additional revenue; they can opt for the "rollback rate," and reduce the tax rate to bring in the same amount of revenue or they can increase the tax rate, depending on the funding needed to pay for operations, projects and programs, and capital improvements.

The numbers released Thursday are preliminary numbers with final numbers for transmital to the state expected by July 1.

"We'll take it. It seems like things are tapering off a little, but it's good we got a increase. I look forward to seeing the numbers in July so we can decipher what we'll do budget wise," North Fort Myers fire chief David Rice said. "We have some things we want to do in the future and every bit helps."

The estimated increase could allow the district to put an extra $200,000 into its coffers, give or take.

Overall taxable valuation vapulation within the Bayshore Fire District had an increase of 3.51 percent for an estimated $418.7 million in tax roll values, up from $404,488,145 last year, when values increased 6.73 percent.

Unlike North Fort Myers, which passed a tax increase two years ago, Bayshore has been unable to do so, meaning it is still in recovery mode following the recession which saw property values cut almost in half.

Bayshore could expect to see about $40,000 more come into the district, which has expanded to include the Lee County area of Babcock Ranch.

Larry Nisbet, Bayshore Fire chief, said the area has about recovered half its value after the housing bust. But while it's still far behind where it needs to be, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

"We're about halfway back. It's a little better than treading water. It helps us maintain fulltime positions without grant assistance, not the full staffing we had before layoffs, but it solidifies three of the six positions we lost," Nisbet said, adding the district still gets SAFER grants for the other three fulltime positions."

Nisbet said with Babcock and several developments set for construction in Bayshore, opportunity exists for more tax dollars in the coming years.

Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson said there were no surprises, in that while the market has slowed down a little bit and despite last year's algae emergency, growth remains strong.

"The tax authorities should be happy. The market is pretty steady and strong, which is a good thing for the economy," Wilkinson said. "It didn't like it when it was roaring and when we lost 49 percent of value in three years."

Overall, Lee County saw its valuations increase by 5.36 percent, with a total taxable value of $82.679 billion, up $4.207 billion from 2017.

Wilkinson said he sees a levelling off in value increases, which he said is also a good thing and sure beats the declines from 2008-10.

"We can anticipate everything that happens in the next few years being positive," Wilkinson said.

That levelling off has already happened in some areas, especially on the beaches. Sanibel's estimated valuation was almost flat, increasing just 0.59 percent. Fort Myers Beach was up 2.54 percent, and Estero's estimated increase was 1.12 percent.



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